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The Poverty Game
Once again we have a ruckus over poverty numbers. Is Douglas County suffering a high poverty rate? Are the US Census numbers valid?
Of the five counties listed with the worst poverty data in Kansas three are homes to State Regents Universities. Is that an accident or does that play into the derivation of the census data?
It is no secret that in Douglas County we have many students who earn relatively low incomes. They then file federal income taxes to reclaim their deductions yielding data for the census bureau. Since there are a large number of students in Douglas County that data contributes significantly to a determination of poverty levels. Is that accurate?
Well, students do earn little. They do, however, have substantial income that is not counted in the derivation of poverty numbers. For many there is the Mon and Dad contribution. Loans and grants are another major source of income. Scholarships and other similar income also are part of the equation. Cash income may also escape note. None of this income is counted in the poverty statistics.
Now I am not faulting the census bureau or their process. I am confident it works well for a general determination of poverty. I do, however, question its validity for counties where there are large student populations relative to total population.
As citizens we should be asking ourselves if the possible distortion created by college students could lead to misallocation of poverty funding away from the truly needed. In fact we may ask ourselves if a whole lot of numbers banded about in these pages truly reflect the economic status of our town and county. Could we be preying unintentionally on the parts of Kansas that are not as well off as we really may be